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Australia shares end slightly up amid investor caution; NZ lower

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[SYNDEY] Australian shares staged a mild recovery on Wednesday, ending higher after two sessions of losses, though investors remained cautious amid worries about global economic growth.

The S&P/ASX 200 benchmark index closed up 0.1 per cent, or 8.7 points, at 6,049.80 after losing 2.3 per cent over the last two trading days, helped by gains in the healthcare sector.

Broader Asian shares also barely moved on a day when investors preferred to stay on the sidelines, awaiting more clarity on US Treasuries and Chinese markets.

The International Monetary Fund cut global economic growth forecasts for 2018 and 2019 on Tuesday, as well as its US and China estimates for next year, saying the two would feel the brunt of the impact of their trade war next year.

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New findings published on Wednesday showed Australian consumer sentiment rebounded a little this month after a sharp drop in September, though concerns remained about falling home prices.

Healthcare stocks led the gains in Australia, with the sector index finishing 1.5 per cent higher after the previous session down about 4 per cent.

Fears over China's economy had pressured Australian healthcare stocks with Chinese exposure. The healthcare index slumped 8.4 per cent in September after five straight months of gains.

While healthcare stocks might bounce on a relief rally right now, they are likely to remain under pressure due to their Chinese exposure, said Damian Rooney, director of equity sales at Argonaut.

Financial stocks ended marginally higher, with the sector index closing up 0.1 percent.

That modest gain may be temporary, with some high-profile bankers scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee this week, where they will be grilled over their business practices after serious misconduct was revealed by a Royal Commission enquiry.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ended 0.2 per cent or 19.16 points down at 9,050.82 for an eighth consecutive finish in the red.

Synlait Milk Ltd and Fonterra Fund were among the top losers, ending 2.2 per cent and 1.9 percent down, respectively.

Fonterra Group lowered its 2018-19 guidance for its farmgate milk price to a range of NZ$6.25 to NZ$6.50 per kilogram of milk solids from the prior NZ$6.75 per kgMS because of global milk oversupply.

REUTERS